Thursday, October 27, 2005

Kosovo fieldwork: destruction, memory, history and narrative

Kosova/Kosovo fieldwork notes extracts

The destruction of cultural heritage was inescapable in Prizren; minorities from each community have made and continue to make attempts to erase memory and rewrite history, constructing an alternative narrative to the multicultural, multiethnic ones that were known and lived by the majority of people of every community.

In each landscape, place and site, I built my photographic archive in the order that cultural heritage was revealed to me as I walked around, so that it formed a somewhat coherent social geography, in some sense correspondent to those social geographies experienced by locals.

On my first full day in Prizren, I returned to where I had been dropped off by the bus and walked back down through the centre and into the old town. I was stunned by what I found. At 2.50pm on the 17th of July 2005, I observed that:
The Orthodox material here isn't just attacked, damaged or even destroyed; it's obliterated and abused. It's not just burned out or torn down; it's gutted then filled with waste. 'Houses', of which only the four walls remain, are overflowing with rubbish; 'churches' are overgrown with weeds.

The material remains of the Orthodox community, like the Muslim one before it, are being made to appear as if they were ancient ruins, only re-emerging to our view as the ruined city is reclaimed by its reconstruction and development. The material remains, however, live on in and as ruins, invested with and embodying memories - of both the place's multicultural past and its sectarian present.

The destruction may seek to erase memory and history, but it merely reinscribes them, albeit with a new narrative. These are the scars scored in Prizren's community's flesh, as the graveyards were in Sarajevo's and as the monuments were in Budapest's, but Budapest's scars were healing; these are still open wounds.
Participants have been afforded anonymity. Formatting has been changed to make it easy to read in a blog.

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